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`Wild Card` Soccer Players Impress at Guangzhou Asiad

Posted November. 17, 2010 11:37,   


National soccer team members Park Chu-young and Kim Jung-woo have two things in common: they both made the Guangzhou Asian Games squad as wild cards (players aged 24 or older) and each scored in Monday’s 3-0 win over host China in the round of 16.

The wild card system is exclusively used in the Olympics and Asian Games, and was used for the first time in the Olympics in 1996 and in the Asiad in 2002.

The wild card player is an attractive option for the coach, who can supplement the weaknesses of players aged 23 or under by adding veterans with ample experience and skills. The system also enables the team to reinforce relatively weak positions.

Korean soccer has enjoyed few benefits from the system, however, and has often suffered setbacks instead.

Korea first selected as wild cards strikers Hwang Sun-hong, Ha Seok-ju and Lee Im-saeng for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The effect was negligible, however, as Lee returned midway into the tournament due to injuries and Hwang played in just one game.

Korea did not make it out of the group stage in Atlanta with one win, one draw and one loss.

In the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Hong Myung-bo (now coach of the Guangzhou Asiad team), Kim Do-hoon and Kim Sang-shik were selected but had little effect. Hong got injured and returned home just before the event began, and was replaced by Kang Chul, who failed to impress. Prolific striker Kim Do-hoon also went scoreless.

At the 2002 Busan Asiad, stars Lee Woon-jae, Kim Young-chul and Lee Young-pyo played as wild cards after leading their team to the 2002 World Cup semifinals. In Busan, however, goalie Lee Woon-jae failed to save a single goal in the penalty shootout loss to Iran in the semifinals while defender Lee Young-pyo showed erratic play.

A similar situation occurred at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Kim Nam-il was dropped due to injury just before the event and Yoo Sang-chul showed sluggish play.

Wild cards at the 2006 Doha Asiad were Kim Dong-jin, Lee Chun-soo and Kim Do-heon, and those at the 2008 Beijing Olympics were Kim Jung-woo and Kim Dong-jin. Lee Chun-soo scored one goal in Doha and Kim Dong-jin did the same in Beijing but the team performed poorly in both tournaments.

The lackluster showings of wild card players have led critics to call them “hardly useful.”

The situation looks different at this year’s Asian Games, however. Park Chu-young and Kim Jung-woo have met expectations as senior players guiding their juniors.

Coach Hong said, “Park scores goals and Kim coordinates play in games,” adding, “Both apparently feel a sense of responsibility as wild cards,” expressing satisfaction.